Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Off My Bookshelf: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Who is beautiful? Who is ugly? Is beauty found on the face or in the heart? What about ugliness? Isn't ugliness of the heart much worse than any physical deformity?

Wonder takes us through the fifth grade year of a severely deformed boy, August. It is his first year not being home-schooled, and the adjustment is torturous for him and those who love him. He encounters those who fear him and those who hate him simply because of how he looks. Yet August finds strength from within himself and from the friendships of others.

How do we relate to the unlovely? Reading Wonder caused me to take a hard, deep look into my own heart. What have been my reactions to those with special needs or those who are not "normal"? I have to say I have not been proud of what has been revealed to me about my heart and my behavior.

A few of my favorite quotes from Wonder:

"Jack, sometimes you don't have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone." pg.137

"You don't need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you. That's how it is in heaven. It's just love, and no one forgets who they love." pg.227

"And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God." pg.301

"'Greatness,' wrote Beecher, (Henry Ward Beecher), 'lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength... He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts...'" pg.304

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Off My Bookshelf: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

First, let me say this is one of the most important books I have ever read. I worried at the start because the foreword was written the well-known atheist by Christopher Hitchens. I wondered what I, a Christ loving woman, would think of Ayaan's story. I thought, because of the foreword, that it was to be a story of movement from the Muslim faith to atheism. It is that story, but so much more. I have read "Half the Sky" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, and know about the atrocities toward women around the world. And frankly, I'm still trying to figure out my role, my reaction, toward female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, rape, human trafficking, etc., after having read that book. Now I have read the story of a real life woman having lived though some of those horrific practices. It has become personal to me. While in the line to pick up my independent, strong-willed daughter, I see girls exciting the high school covered in their hidjab. I pass women in the grocery store and see only their eyes. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What is their life like? Is it the same as Ayaan's? I have a completely different thought process now. I don't know what I as one woman in the Midwest can do to help woman in bondage, but it is time to give serious thought and action to the matter.

If you are looking for a book you just can't stop reading despite the horrific subject matter and the fact that the Kindle version is 851 pages, I recommend "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But be warned, it will do more than bruise your heart. It will scrap the innocent cataracts from your eyes.

In Ayaan Hirsi Ali's words,

"The message of this book, if it must have a message, is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life." Pg.823

"When people say that the values of Islam are compassion, tolerance, and freedom, I look at reality, at real cultures and governments, and I see that it simply isn't so. People in the West swallow this sort of thing because they have learned not to examine the religions or cultures of minorities too critically, for fear of being called racist. It fascinates them that I am not afraid to do so." pg. 825